Skip to content →

The Red Blues

There is a dawn between my legs,

a rising of mad rouge birds, overflowing

and crazy-mean, bronze-tailed hawks,

a phoenix preening

sharp-hot wings, pretty pecking procession,

feathers flashing like flames

in a Semana Santa parade.

There are bulls between my legs,

a torera

stabbing her banderillas,

snapping her cape, tippy-toes scraping

my mottled thighs, the crowd’s throats open,

shining like new scars, cornadas glowing

from beneath hands and white handkerchiefs

bright as bandages.

There are car wrecks between my legs,

a mess of maroon Volkswagens,

a rusted bus abandoned in the Grand Canyon,

a gas tanker in flames,

an IHS van full of corned beef hash,

an open can of commodity beets

on this village’s one main road, a stoplight

pulsing like a bullet hole, a police car

flickering like a new scab,

an ambulance driven by Custer,

another ambulance

for Custer.

There is a war between my legs,

’ahway nyavay, a wager, a fight, a losing

that cramps my fists, a battle on eroding banks

of muddy creeks, the stench of metal,

purple-gray clotting the air,

in the grass the bodies

dim, cracked pomegranates, stone fruit,

this orchard stains

like a cemetery.

There is a martyr between my legs,

my personal San Sebastián

leaking reed arrows and sin, stubbornly sewing

a sacred red ribbon dress, ahvay chuchqer,

the carmine threads

pull the Colorado River, ’Aha Haviily, clay,

and creosotes from the skirt,

each wound a week,

a coral moon, a calendar, a begging

for a master, or a slave, for a god

in magic cochineal pants.

There are broken baskets between my legs,

cracked vases, terra-cotta crumbs,

crippled grandmothers with mahogany skins

whose ruby shoes throb on shelves in closets,

who teach me to vomit

this fuchsia madness,

this scarlet smallpox blanket,

this sugar-riddled amputated robe,

these cursive curses scrawling down my calves,

this rotting strawberry field, swollen sunset,

hemoglobin joke with no punch line,

this crimson garbage truck,

this bloody nose, splintered cherry tree, manzano,

this métis Mary’s heart,

guitarra acerezada, red race mestiza, this cattle train,

this hand-me-down adobe drum,

this slug in the mouth,

this ’av’unye ’ahwaatm, via roja dolorosa,

this dark hut, this mud house, this dirty bed,

this period of exile.

from When My Brother Was an AztecFind it in the library

Copyright © 2012 Natalie Diaz
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.

Published in Natalie Diaz Poems

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.